Mixed reaction to maid shortage solution in Malaysia

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - The proposal to allow employers to hire refugees as domestic helpers has drawn mixed reactions from the public.

Designer Kelly Tan said she would not mind getting a day maid to keep her aged mother company and also help out with the housework.

"I've met some Myanmar women working at food outlets and they seem polite and diligent in their work. A few can even speak the local dialects," she said.

"It's not cheap hiring an Indonesian or Filipino maid these days as one has to pay at least RM8,000 in advance just to bring in a foreign maid. Hopefully, we only need to pay a monthly salary to 'refugee' maids with no other hidden costs."

Tan, 43, however said she would want to know the background of a prospective maid before accepting one into the household for safety reasons.

Q. Cheong, a mother of three who runs her own business, supports the move but hopes the authorities can address the issue of their refugee status.

"Refugees who are keen to work must undergo proper training. More importantly, they must be pyschologically sound to ensure they are not a threat in our homes. There must also be legal protection for both employers and the refugee-workers so that no one is taken advantage of."

Salina Ismail who works in the IT industry only said "Why not?"

However, a working mother of two schoolgoing children who only wanted to be known as Looi has doubts about hiring a refugee for domestic work.

"We are already taking our chances when we take a foreign maid from an agency, no doubt, but with a refugee, there may be more risks and security issues involved," Looi said.

Teacher Kartini Ariffin is worried over the refugee's stateless status. "What do we do if we have disagreements?" she asked.

Malaysian Maid Employers Association (Mama) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein said employers should realise that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, topmost of which is the lower costs involved.

"Concerns about security and the refugees' stateless status are valid but all these can be resolved with the cooperation of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the relevant authorities," Engku Ahmad assured.

Malaysians are used to Indonesian and Filipino maids, so they will need to open their minds to this potential. They also have to be made aware of the refugees' situation and background so that they can understand them better," he said.